Switching schools and settling in...
Written by Alun Jones on 29/03/2013
Q. My daughter is 14 and her private school was shut down unexpectedly during summer. She has started a new much bigger school but has lost her spark and feels she is struggling to be accepted amongst her peers. I did approach the school after a month and they said it was too early but she seems no better. She is coping very well academically maybe this is the problem – she has gone from a private school to part fee paying school which is non selective but has a very good reputation…
A. One can never underestimate the emotional trauma suffered by both pupils and staff when a school is faced with closure. Schools are very special places where bonds of trust are strong; when a school closes the community feels vulnerable and let down.
I also suspect that if your daughter’s school has had to close, pupil role was dwindling and the school community would have been relatively small and close, with abundant attention able to be given to each individual; perhaps the absolute antithesis of the environment your daughter enjoys now.
It is therefore understandable that such a dramatic change of culture has caused your daughter to lose her spark, perhaps feel a little detached and consequently show signs of stress, all at a time when girls lives are already going through considerable change.
Your daughter has obviously secured an excellent work ethic as she is still coping well academically, perhaps more so than her new fellow pupils in a non-selective school; so it is time to help her build a safe and secure social network of friends.
Encourage your daughter to build a broad circle of friends; make it easy for her to invite different friends home or on a shopping trip or cinema visit for instance. At the same time introduce yourself to different groups of parents and ask the school to recommend families in your daughter’s year who live nearby. The teachers who have specific responsibility for your daughter’s pastoral welfare will be able to recommend ‘like-minded’ pupils who have a similar work ethic, interests or personal values to befriend. Remember your daughter has to play her part too; she must ensure that she is outward looking and welcoming to new groups of friends. Playing an active role in the extra-curricular life of the school is an ideal way to meet new people and will provide access to different social groups.
It is important to reassure your daughter that it is the school that has changed, not her! If your daughter was sparky, popular and sociable in her previous school, that persona is still there and will return in time. It might be wise to talk with your daughter to ascertain whether there have been any changes in her pattern of behaviour towards others that might possibly provoke a slightly different response from her peers.
It is likely that your daughter currently feels as though she is ‘on the outside looking in’; with your support, the help of the school and with your daughter playing her part too, this will soon change and that spark will return as a result.
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